Book of the Week, books, historical, Thriller

Book of the Week: Beneath a Silent Moon

Difficult choice in the BotW stakes this week, but both options had a historical feel to them.  It was between the second of Tracy Grant’s Charles and Mélanie Fraser books and the first in Jodi Taylor’s time travelling adventure books.  And as you might be able to tell from the title, it was the Grant that won – in part because I really liked the first book in the series but I happened to read it in the same week as The Glittering Art of Falling Apart and it lost out in the BotW stakes that week.  So this – perhaps more than ever – comes with a warning about reading the series in order.  On that subject, more later.  First, the plot:

Charles and Mélanie Fraser are not your average society couple.  The Napoleonic Wars are over, but danger still lurks in the streets of London.  There’s something rotten in the Ton and the source of the answers may well be closer to them than they could possibly realise.  Assassination, espionage, and secrets in Charles’ family all add up to a fast paced, twisty and complex spy adventure.

With the end of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, I’ve been on the hunt for something to fill the Nineteenth Century set spy novel shape in my reading life.  And although Grant’s series actually started before Willig’s, I’ve discovered them the other way around.  I can’t remember how I first came across them – but it’ll probably have been an if-you-like-this-try-that from either Amazon or Goodreads (and probably based on purchasing Pink Carnations or Deanna Raybourn) and for that I am grateful!

These aren’t timeslip novels, but they do jump backwards and forwards in Charles and Mélanie’s lives – sometimes within the book, but definitely within the series –  this was the second book to be published,  but is set before the first.  And on top of that, the chronological order list on Goodreads gives it as book seven!*  But given the events of book one – about which I don’t want to say too much – I suspect reading them in order may have the most impact and will give it the most layers and nuance.

Charles and Mélanie have a complex relationship – founded in necessity, complicated by love and built on secrets.  Charles’ family is just as bad.  Possibly worse.  Add that to a murder and conspiracy and all in all it makes for a gripping page-turner of a book, with more secret compartments than James Bond’s suitcase and some incredibly devious twists and turns.  It’s not for the faint-hearted/weak of stomach in places, but it’s worth a bit of queasiness for a historical mystery this good.

I’ve already bought the next one (which is only available on Kindle) and may have put an order in for an actual copy of Book 4.  Now prices are variable on these – I’m not sure they’re all published over here (the UK), so the later titles are imports and more expensive.  But for the most part the Kindle prices are more reasonable.  The first book is Secrets of a Lady (originally Daughter of the Game) and is under £3.50 on Kindle at time of writing but nearly £10 in paperback from Amazon (although they do have second-hand copies for less).  Beneath a Silent Moon is under £3 on Kindle and only available second-hand via Amazon.  It gets even more complicated later on, but as I said, do start at the beginning…

*And to complicate things further, mid series the lead characters’ names change to Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch.  Not that I’ve got there yet, but my head is already aching!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: April 18 – April 24

I would have read more this week, except for the fact that I acquired a new-to-me copy of one of my favourite books of all time – Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham – and couldn’t resist re-reading it.  This of course cut into my time for reading new books and doesn’t count towards my total for the year – or my list here.  Still it’s so funny and so good I don’t mind!

Read:

The Queerness of Rusty by Phyllis Matthewman

Beneath a Silent Moon by Tracy Grant

Good Dukes Wear Black by Manda Collins

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

Mug Shot by Caroline Fardig

Maybe the Moon by Armistead Maupin

Started:

Read It and Weep by Jenn McKinlay

Still reading:

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Five books (including that copy of Gone with the Windsors) and two ebooks bought.  Oops

Book of the Week, historical

Book of the Week: Jane Steele

This week’s BotW is Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele, which is billed as a gothic retelling of Jane Eyre, but is a bit more loosely related to Bronte’s book than that might suggest. I heard a lot of buzz about this before it’s release – Deanna Raybourn wrote about it in her newsletter and some of the book podcasts I listen to talked about it too, so when I spotted it on NetGalley I was already intrigued enough to request it.

Jane Steele’s favourite book is – and her life has some parallels with Charlotte Bronte’s heroine – she’s orphaned, she’s sent to boarding school, she becomes a governess and is attracted to her employer.  But there’s a key difference – Ms Steele has a bit of a murderous streak.  This Jane has a few more trials in her life than Bronte’s – but she’s not going to take them lying down.

Despite her killings, Jane is an attractive and appealing heroine with reasons (mostly) for acting as she does.  I was concerned before I read this and early on in the book that I wouldn’t be able to get past the fact that she was killing people, but it really wasn’t an issue.  Jane’s actions are (mostly) quite understandable – and not without consequences for her.  She’s fairly self-aware – although the reader suspects she’s not as well informed about some things as she thinks she is – and chafes at the restrictions and limitations places on her by Victorian society.  She’s smarter than most of the men around her during the first half of the book and it’s interesting and entertaining watching her work out how she can extricate herself from the situations she is forced into.

Considering I read Jane Eyre for the one and only time when I was about 9 and – whisper it quietly – have never read Wuthering Heights*, I seem to have read a lot (proportionally) with Bronte re-tellings or influenced books (and I have The Madwoman Upstairs sitting on the to-read pile so it’s not over yet!).  And while I didn’t love this the way I love Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair** it is really good fun.  I liked the portion of the book before Jane arrives back at Thornfield the best – possibly because it’s quite hard to keep up the fast-paced, wise-cracking action when you introduce a love interest and try to work out a resolution where the problem of your heroine being a murderess isn’t an issue!

Not quite as brilliant as you expect from the first 50 pages, but nonetheless pretty darn good, Jane Steele is out in the UK in what I suspect from the price is the giant airport sized paperback and in the US in hardback.  A cheaper (smaller?) paperback edition is due in the UK in November Get your copy from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, Kindle or Kobo.

* I do know what happens though.

** But Thursday Next is a very high bar and has a lot more going on than just Jane Eyre.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: April 11 – April 17

Look at my progress with the longstanding books in progress!  And I read more besides.  Thank you minibreak and days off work.

Read:

Dandy Gilver and a Deadly Measure of Brimstone

Jane Steel by Lyndsay Faye

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell

Freya by Anthony Quinn

Chloe Takes Control by Phyllis Matthewman

Started:

Maybe the Moon by Armistead Maupin

The Queerness of Rusty by Phyllis Matthewman

Still reading:

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

I bought books this week – but that’s because we went to Northumberland for a few days – and that meant a trip to the cavern of amazingness that is Barter Books in Alnwick.  Ninety minutes later and I’ve got a basket of books that I’ve been after for a while – although a couple were for friends.  So much fun.

Book of the Week, new releases

Book of the Week: Somewhere Inside of Happy

A paperback copy of Somewhere Inside of Happy
This week’s attempt at an artistic photo has floorboards and sheepskin

There were two strong contenders for this week’s BotW crown – the latest Daisy Dalrymple mystery (which I’ve only just got around to) and Somewhere Inside of Happy, but as Anna McPartlin’s latest was released last week (I was lucky enough to be sent an copy in advance) and I really did love it, the funky yellow book takes home the prize.

Somewhere Inside of Happy starts with Maisie Brennan standing on a podium, about to address an audience on the twentieth anniversary of her son. Then we go back in time to find out what happened to her beloved Jeremy, as well as what her life was like before he disappeared.

You may remember that The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes reduced me to tears on a train, so this time I took precautions while reading this – no public transport.  However it did leave me in tears (subtly I hope) in my youth hostel dorm room as I finished it.  This is a tear-jerker in the very best sense.  You go into this knowing that Jeremy is dead – it’s on the back cover – but you desperately don’t want it to be true.  Watching how the story unfolds is a total rollercoaster as you get to know the characters and their backstory and their close family unit.  I was alternately desperate to know what had happened to Jeremy and desperate not to know because once you know then he is definitely dead and the family will never be the same again.

But don’t go thinking that this book is a downer. It’s not. It is funny and warm and life affirming. It shows the power of love and what people can achieve even in the face of great adversity. It shows the importance of family – whether it’s the one you’re born with or one you find and make for yourself. I may have an aversion to sad books and be devastated that Jeremy died, but I’m so glad I read it and I know I’m going to be recommending it to so many people. It’d make a great holiday read – as long as you have some big sunglasses to hide your tears behind!

Get your copy from Amazon, Waterstones or Foyles – but I’d expect this to be front and centre in the supermarkets and WH Smith stores – on on Kindle or Kobo.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: April 4 – April 10

Some really good books here – I’m having trouble picking my BotW for tomorrow!  I’m going to try and finish some of the long-running books this week coming though.

Read:

Superfluous Women by Carola Dunn

Somewhere Inside of Happy by Anna McPartlin

Exile for Annis by Josephine Elder

Prefects at Vivians by Patricia K Caldwell

Secret Letters at Trebizon by Anne Digby

Midnight Pleasures by Eloisa James

Started:

Dandy Gilver and a Deadly Measure of Brimstone

Still reading:

Freya by Anthony Quinn

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Jane Steel by Lyndsay Faye

No books bought!  Again.  I’m really trying hard.

Book of the Week, cozy crime, reviews

Book of the Week: Speaking from Among the Bones

Back to detective fiction for this week’s BotW which is Alan Bradley’s fifth Flavia de Luce book.  Unusually for me these days, I’m reading this series out of order – I read the first book first, but the only others I’ve read in the series are the two which follow this one.

In Book 5 we join our heroine as the village is preparing for the exhumation of their local saint from the church yard to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.   But when they open the tomb, instead of a skeleton they find the recently deceased church organist and the pre-teen detective can’t help but start to investigate…

In the first book, Flavia trod a fine line for me – between engagingly and  clever and irritatingly precocious.  In this book (and the other later ones that I’ve read) she’s smart, with some pretty peculiar interests, but doesn’t ever cross too far over into preternaturally omnipotent!  Aside from her sisters, most of her relationships are with adults and I enjoyed watching how the different adults interact with her – and their varying success (in her opinion) in treating her “properly”.

This was a fun page-turner, I had my suspicions about the culprit but couldn’t figure out the hows and whys – but the explanation was ingenious.  I’m obviously still enjoying the series despite reading it out of order – you should be able to find Flavia’s adventures (where ever you want to start with them) in all good bookshops and online or, as I did, at your local library.